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Playing Meatball-Stuffed Peppers with Spinach and Garlic


  • EVOO Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling plus 4 tablespoons, divided
  • 6 cloves garlic, 2 thinly sliced, 4 minced or finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, peeled and halved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 28- to 32-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of sugar
  • A few leaves of basil, torn
  • 4 red bell peppers, tops removed, seeds scraped and bottoms trimmed to sit upright
  • 4 1/2- inch thick slices good quality white bread or Italian bread, crusts trimmed
  • Whole milk, for soaking bread, 1 to 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 pound ground veal or lamb or meatloaf mix (beef, pork and veal)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, drained well and finely chopped
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus some for topping peppers, a handful


Serves: 4 servings


Preheat oven to 425F.

Heat 2 tablespoons EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, in a saucepot. Add sliced garlic and stir 1-2 minutes. Add onion, bay and tomatoes; break them up with a spoon and season with salt, pepper, and sugar. Simmer 25-30 minutes at a low bubble to thicken and break down tomatoes. Remove onion and bay, stir in a couple of leaves of sweet basil. If sauce thickens too quickly, add a splash of water.

Drizzle peppers with EVOO and season with salt and pepper. Roast 20 minutes, remove and cool to handle.

Cover bread with milk in a small bowl to soak.

Heat remaining olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, in a skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Lightly brown and crumble meat with the chopped garlic then transfer to a bowl and cool. Wring out the bread and crumble into crumbs. Add to meat along with eggs and spinach. Season with salt, pepper and a few grates of nutmeg. Add cheese and 1 cup of tomato sauce, and mix to combine. Fill peppers with meat mixture and smooth off the tops. Pour remaining sauce around and over peppers, sprinkle with a little more cheese and roast 20-25 minutes.